Inclusion and Vigilance

Inclusion is first a positive term that I grew up believing meant including someone or something, but today it means including everyone or everything. As a sociological term, the concept of inclusion describes a society in which everyone is accepted and can participate on an equal and self-determined basis – regardless of gender, age or background, religious affiliation or education, any disabilities or other individual characteristics. The word became a buzzword when children with disabilities were included in classes of children without disabilities to create social awareness and acceptance of disabilities as something normal without stigma. All minorities or marginalized people have an interest in gaining the same acceptance, and soon it was all kinds of behaviours that claimed the right to be accepted as a social norm, and some of them were not accepted. However, the concept meant the inclusion of certain behaviours that had previously been outlawed, and homosexuality was accepted as a normal sexual preference, and though flamboyant behaviour became common for a time, it dried up after a while. It was clear that any form of sexual abuse with minors and animals was unacceptable, but so was anything that was not mutually consensual, posed a health risk, or in any way violated the rights of others. However, behaviour previously considered “outrageous” was accepted to a certain extent and under certain conditions.

However, social integration means participation, not just presence. One example I experienced was a woman with dementia who completely undressed during a church service, or a man with dementia who urinated in the corner. These are examples of people who no longer know what is going on and cannot behave appropriately. They are also examples of people who are more stigmatized by trying to include them in activities than if they had stayed in their own comfort zone. Participation also requires some identification with the activity, and people who cannot identify with it tend to hide in the corner or make themselves the centre of attention, which runs counter to inclusion. It is also difficult when minorities take over activities in which they are included but which are directed at the majority. A certain amount of modesty enhances social activities, while traditionally pride, arrogance and vanity are the opposite of this and tend to be a hindrance.

What is disturbing is that promoting liberality has always opened the doors for abuse by some small groups of people towards people who are already vulnerable. It seems as though the relaxation of control immediately releases the elements of society to exploit the situation and in that way undermines the belief in a liberal society and gives fuel into the fires of those who fear such a misuse of freedom. This means that any general relaxation of scrutiny paradoxically has to increase scrutiny in certain areas, which can only be resolved by a society that is alert to the dangers. I am increasingly worried that we are lacking this vigilance in current issues.

The loosening of self-identification, for example, has already led to situations in countries such as Canada (as well as others) that call into question the radical nature of the determination behind it. In some cases, traumatized women who had escaped an abusive relationship and fled to a women’s shelter were confronted with self-identifying women openly displaying their male genitalia or verbally assaulting vulnerable women with booming male voices. “Common sense” says that this situation is counterproductive at best and at worst provides abusive men a place to continue abusing women where they should be protected. You don’t have to be an abused woman to know this. Every man who is honest knows men who have been misogynistic or abusive in some way. Of course, it’s not something men openly flaunt, but the so-called “locker rooms” and bars provide enough examples. The respect men show for women is flawed and too often reduced to sexual preference. Often the sexual innuendo is mild and humorous and is seen only as banter between the sexes. But too often the intent of the abuse is clear.

I think that the problem is that the sexual aspect of interaction between people is underplayed and isn’t taken into account. I used to ask people, especially women who said or showed they wanted to appear “sexy” whether they were aware of what they were doing, or of what subliminal signals they were sending. Some said it was only about feeling good and confident. Asked what the measure for that was, they often said it was about being “attractive,” which is admittedly an expectancy that society places on women if they want to be in some way successful – but it is exactly the point. If we are not aware of what we are doing, or we have no idea of what signals we are sending, we end up being surprised or even shocked at the results. Additionally, the acceptance of pornography and its influence on young people, does a lot of damage – one prominent example is Billie Eilish – and the wrong ideas that young men get about sexuality are often the reason for abusive relationships.

We have become a very indulgent society, and recent studies suggest that indulgence leads to negative feelings such as regret, guilt, shame, or embarrassment in consumerism. These negative feelings, in turn, cause a reversal of preferences that now align with long-term goals, leading consumers to wish they had behaved more responsibly (Kivetz and Keinan 2006). But also, complacency, greed, and reluctance are the consequences of abundance. It seems that the increase in overindulgence is because we live in the age of abundance. The parents who raised their children 50 years ago did not have the resources available to parents today, and indulgence affects people’s awareness and ultimately their vigilance with regard to potential harm. We must hope that the widespread indulgence and inclusive atmosphere in society do not later lead to regret, guilt, shame, or embarrassment, when consequences of the lack of vigilance become apparent.